Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Year In Review: My US Networks Scorecard

As part of my weeklong Year In Review series yesterday I shared my Ten Thoughts on Local TV and today I'll discuss my assessment of how the US Broadcast networks fared this year with their programming. I thought of having the usual top 10 list of favorite shows or episodes but then again I'm not updated with a good number of hourlong series that much unlike the sitcoms which I follow a lot so my top 10 would be heavy on 30-minute sitcoms (and heavy on shows from the broadcast networks as well) so I just decided to share my thoughts on they performed in their programming this year since that is one aspect of US Television that really fascinates me.

Grade: B

ABC is still a vulnerable network but they are not in disastrous state like NBC (more on that later). They have hits on the schedule but still has a lot of weak spots to improve on. This year they cancelled a bunch of freshmen shows which just shows how weak their development have been the past season failing to land a hit show. The only survivors of that 2010-2011 batch are Dana Delany's procedural vehicle "Body of Proof" and the sitcom "Happy Endings" and both are midseason shows. ABC really tend to give their midseason projects more chances for renewal than the ones launched in the fall (of course I'm talking about the "bubble" shows). Some examples of that are What About Brian, Eli Stone, Better off Ted and Castle. All those shows had mediocre to awful ratings but they had potential (whether ratings or creative wise) so ABC give them a pass but only Castle became a hit in the long run. It's no wonder ABC set aside some of their potential new programs for midseason next year. The pilots of Good Christian Belles, The River, Apartment 23 and Scandal will premiere next year. Premiering in the fall it's quite risky because most shows tend to lost steam by spring so it makes sense to reserve the ones which could benefit the network on longer terms for midseason where they can air all episodes without reruns. This year though the shows ABC launched in the fall had more promise than the previous batches. The only one that really bombed out of the gate for ABC was the remake of Charlie's Angels which is a bit surprising since you would think a known franchise would be an instant hit but this was not the case here. I personally think they made a bad call in casting the 3 angels. They need at least one girl who is quite popular or is generally considered charismatic. The audience already aware of what the show is all about so one thing that would entice them to watch it is the cast but this one premiered very poorly so the interest was not there right from the start. ABC's second new drama failure the 60s drama Pan Am premiered well at least but faltered in the succeeding weeks following the trend of a lot of ABC freshman dramas in the past which opens big but loses audience week to week until cancellation meets them. ABC's 3rd failure the sitcom Man Up actually had a decent showing but was losing too much of its lead in and when a show is sandwiched between two high rated shows, the ratings should be better but the ratings discrepancy Man Up had with is lead in (Last Man Standing) and lead out (Dancing With the Stars) was huge so there's no really potential for it to grow from its anemic ratings. ABC made a bad judgment of pairing Man Up and Last Man Standing just because they are "man" shows, Last Man Standing's appeal is that it is a family friendly show not because it's about a man in the world of women. ABC will pair it with cross dressing sitcom Work It next year which I don't think will last as well but let's see. ABC successfully premiered 4 news shows this year with Revenge, Once Upon a Time, Suburgatory and Last Man Standing. Still to early to tell is this shows can survive for a second season given that spring ratings are usually lower than fall. Suburgatory is sandwiched between hits The Middle and Modern Family and is producing good results but it will face American Idol next year so let's see how it will hold up. Revenge and Once Upon a Time started well although both are still vulnerable to hitting lows by midseason given how volatile ABC dramas are but I think both shows will survive unless they fall to drastic levels like below 2.0. Last Man Standing repeats well and given how it manages to hold up the 8pm slot against NCIS and Glee, this would survive to a next season, it's the type of show that grows over time ala The Middle. As for ABC's veteran shows, Grey's Anatomy is holding up quite well I must say, sure it's no longer the ratings powerhouse it used but it still is one of top rated not just on ABC but across all networks as well. Meanwhile, ABC did the right call by making this season the final one for Desperate Housewives, the show is hitting series low on its final season despite having a strong lead in with Once Upon a Time. The numbers should go up as the series comes to an end but I doubt the series finale will even reach the ratings it had 3 seasons ago. Castle's ratings are so intermittent (going for almost series high one week then fall drastically the following week) but it held decently given the weak Dancing with the Stars this season. Private Practice continues to benefit from airing after mother show Grey's Anatomy although to be fair it's 2-hour ep without Grey's support did decent. I won't be surprised if ABC will bench Private Practice for a couple of weeks to give way to Shonda's new drama Scandal. Fridays are decent for ABC and they relocated Extreme Makeover: Home Edition which will end its run next year (but will return via special ala Fox's America's Most Wanted). Shark Tank will replace it next year. I don't think ABC will try to have scripted programming back on Fridays anytime soon they have to fix their other nights first before they even think of Friday. Lastly, ABC's strongest night this year is Wednesday thanks to Modern Family blowing up in the ratings this year. The Middle should also be credited for an increase in ratings this season and providing a good lead off for the night.

Grade: A-

For the first part of the year, it looked like CBS Monday lineup is going to crash and burn after Two and a Half Men stopped production because of Charlie Sheen's drama which ultimately lead to him getting fired from the show. Without new episode of their Monday night anchor, CBS faltered in the ratings on Mondays. But things turned around this fall when the reformatted Two and a Half Men with Ashton Kutcher replacing Sheen premiered to monstrous ratings and while the show dropped to normal levels, it's still by far one of the highest rated shows in the US and what's even good news for CBS is that 8 pm lead How I Met Your Mother is scoring consistent high ratings this season so far (up sharply from it spring ratings this season when 2.5 Men had no new episodes), 2 Broke Girls lived up to the hype that it was the highest testing sitcom pilot ever for CBS with the high ratings it has been getting all season and the top rated new show of the season, Mike & Molly and Hawaii 5-0 while relatively weaker compared to the 8-9:30 pm shows are still delivering ratings any network would die for. Tuesdays continues to be strong with the NCIS duo although new show Unforgettable is not making a mark yet despite weak competition from ABC (Body of Proof) and NBC (Parenthood) although the ratings are decent it's almost near the ratings The Good Wife was having on this time slot a year ago. Relocating CSI to Wednesdays, 10 pm was a good move as it solved the weak link of the night making CBS Wednesdays a strong night. Thursdays is a mixed bag while The Big Bang Theory exploded in the ratings this season (just as the show premiered in local syndication) the new 8:30 sitcom following it How to Be a Gentleman flamed out just to be replaced by perennial reserve show Rules of Engagement. Persons of Interest while not a flop by any means is underwhelming at 9pm dragging along The Mentalist at 10pm. But for what is worth CBS "problems" at Thursdays is still not on the catastrophic side at all and they could easily turn things around. Fridays showed the continued growth of Blue Bloods at 10 pm and steady ratings for CSI: New York but the new show they launched at 8pm A Gifted Man is struggling. I hope CBS will not give up on airing scripted shows anytime soon. CBS biggest problem right now is Sunday as The Amazing Race is the only one keeping it afloat with The Good Wife and CSI: Miami both struggling to gain traction on such a busy night. The Good Wife is a prestige show for CBS and if not for that it would have been cancelled long ago because the ratings are really far from CBS's average but I hope they won't give it up with this show anytime soon. CSI: Miami is a victim of football overruns and although the ratings are low, I don't think any show on CBS right now (well except NCIS but it's their top rated drama so they won't move it all) can endure the the overruns and CSI: Miami when shown on a regular time does decent (and sometimes improves on its lead in The Good Wife).

Grade: D

What a trainwreck this network (could we really classify them as such anymore) as the show's ratings are just way too low and the only saving grace is The Vampire Diaries which is by a wide margin the network's top rated show. All shows are within the 0.6-0.8 range that is so pitiful. I have a soft spot for this network because it's one half WB which I loved back in the day. CW made a mistake of narrowcasting their target audience to young women who really don't watch TV live that much anymore. Sure, Gossip Girl put them on the buzz meter but that show is now falling behind in the ratings that even newcomer Hart of Dixie is performing better than them. CW needs to develop more shows that caters to a wider audience but for now they have to deal with what they have right now and just hope that things will be better next season.

Grade: B+

FOX is in good shape in general with American Idol proving that the format is the star and was not affected at all with Simon Cowell leaving. They even gave genre fans a bone with renewing Fringe even if the ratings does not justify one just because they can afford to do so. But there are areas for concern: While X Factor USA helped the network cure their fall programming woes by airing on the slot reserved for American Idol by spring and giving the network 3 hours of solid ratings per week it was not the hit that was expected it to be given the enormous hype. A lot of money was spent for this franchise mainly because people were counting on this to be the American Idol of the fall (ratings wise) but it wasn't. The ratings are good and hit level but not a phenomenon. But of course this is still the first season and reality shows could always grow over time. American Idol was not this big during its early seasons anyway. Glee still delivers in the ratings but the third season showed a big fall in the ratings and reduced buzz. The show is a victim of its own insane hype but it still has a chance to recover but it might not be able to reach the season 2 ratings heights it enjoyed. Fox finally found a live action comedy hit with Zooey Deschanel's New Girl but after being pre-empted for a month due to baseball coverage the show returned down in the ratings although still in the hit zone. Raising Hope is struggling and the new sitcom they launched I Hate my Teenage Daughter is not doing well either. You would though the Animation Domination is as solid as rock but when they launched Allen Gregory it pulled the lined up down, good thing the show only had 7 episodes and Fox still have other sitcoms on bench to take over. But for me the biggest concern for Fox right now is Mondays with House's ratings down a lot this season and the expensive, long-delayed Terra Nova floundering on Mondays. Terra Nova's 1st season is over since the production flow of this show could not accommodate a back 9 even if Fox wanted to so Fox will try out JJ Abrams' Alcatraz in its slot. If Alcatraz becomes a hit or at least rates higher than Terra Nova, the latter is done. Fox will also launch Touch this year. House could likely see a final season this year due to its high production cost and mediocre the same reason that killed 24 earlier this year. But whatever troubles Fox is so minimal compared to ABC and NBC and they still have American Idol to save their ratings average to compensate for flops.

Grade: C

Poor NBC. They really tried this year but all the shows they launched are flopping hard. Their acclaimed Thursday sitcom block is struggling as well and their only hit comedy The Office is now facing rought times after the departure of lead star Steve Carell. Same case with their long time drama Law and Order: SVU which lost their lead man Christoper Meloni which might have affected the show's big dip in the ratings. The expensice Sunday football package is the only one keeping them afloat right now but they have a good chance on turning things around next year as they have the Superbowl and they will use the post-Superbowl slot for the second season premiere of The Voice. Despite NBC disastrous woes they were able to pull off a minor miracle this year by launching a new hit show via the reality competition show The Voice. Not only did it do wonders in the ratings for NBC, it was the only true blue ratings smash of the 2010-2011 freshman batch overall (CBS's Mike & Molly and Hawaii Five-O started great but was affect the Sheen-Two and a Half Men fiasco that pulled their ratings down toward the end of their first season run). NBC will wisely use The Voice as lead in to their much hyped Broadway drama Smash which has the potential to become a hit. Right now fixing NBC overall is tough to do but if they manage to pull a successful ratings lineup with The Voice and Smash next year it would be a start for a bright new chapter for this once powerhouse.

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